Everything You Need for a Campfire Whiskey Happy Hour - The Whiskey Wash

Everything You Need for a Campfire Whiskey Happy Hour

I’ve got a gripe. It’s mid-August, and everywhere I go, people keep talking about how “summer’s winding down.”

Summer lasts until September 21, my friends. That’s a lot of game left to play. And here in Oregon, September might be the very best month of the whole season. It’s not so freaking hot, all the best produce is in season, and the grueling 18-hour days of late June are in the rear view. Call me a killjoy, but nobody needs to experience piercing sunlight from 5 in the morning until 10 at night.

September is also the ideal month for outdoor adventure, especially since the kids are back in school so the parks are less crowded. A bottle of good whiskey is never out of place in any camping kit, but you needn’t feel confined to straight booze in the great outdoors if you’re really more of a cocktail drinker. With a little advanced planning, cocktails around the campfire can become a wonderful reality, all without adding two much weight, bulk, or hassle. Here’s what you’ll need to bring:

Nothing goes with canoe camping like welcome ashore Old Fashoneds. Photo by Margarett Waterbury, image copyright The Whiskey Wash.

Shaker

First, you’ll need something to mix in. If packed with the lid off, a three-piece cocktail tin takes up almost no space, and lets you skip carting along an extra strainer.

Whiskey

For all but the most extravagant glamping experiences, one bottle of whiskey is probably plenty to take on a camping trip. A classic American rye is versatile in cocktails and tastes great with a s’more, but bourbon or Irish whiskey can be nice choices as well. If weight is an issue, decant some into a flask and leave the remainder at home.

Ingredients

The ingredients you’ll need to mix a pared-down Old Fashioned, a Whiskey Sour, and a Manhattan can be packed in a quart plastic bag and tucked inside your lid-off shaker. Here’s what to bring:

Dry Items

  • A few sugar cubes in a small bag
  • A couple of lemons
  • A few amarena cherries in a small bag
  • A small bag of cocktail peanuts (it’s not happy hour without a snack)
  • A pocketknife (something you should have anyway, no?)

Liquid Items

There are three liquid items you’ll need, and to save space, it’s good to portion out just what you’ll need rather than cart along the whole bottle. Skip those plastic travel bottle kits, many of which aren’t food safe. Instead, invest in a few small glass bottles from Specialty Bottle or the like – at around a dollar a pop for their glass bottles (including a dropper), it’s worth it.

  • Angostura bitters
  • Vermouth
  • Simple syrup

Ice

Basically impossible for backpackers, but essential for anybody whose outdoor adventures include a cooler. Seal up some clean ice (yes, the good ice from the fancy ice trays at home) in a plastic bag rather than settling for that salami-scented slurry from the bottom of the cooler.

Glassware

It won’t impress any career mixologists, but the maxim that everything tastes better outside definitely applies to cocktails, too, even if they’re served in a metal enameled mug. However, there are now lots of options for more upscale outdoor glassware options, including stemless red wine glasses or copper tumblers. Even a small jam jar will do in a pinch.

And voilá. You’re now ready to deploy a brand-new campsite cocktail for three nights in a row. Plus, if you tuck an optional sprig of mint into your cooler, you have a fourth option: A Whiskey Smash. Think of the Smash as a contingency plan for the event that you stumble upon a laden patch of wild blackberries, because just like a hungry hiker, it enthusiastically welcomes a handful of fruit.

About the author

Margarett Waterbury

Margarett Waterbury is a food and drinks writer based in Portland, Oregon. She's the managing editor of The Whiskey Wash, the managing editor of Edible Portland, and a regular contributor to local and national publications.